Department of Communication
13the Biennial Public Address Conference
Mittie K. Carey

The Freedom Faith Speeches of Prathia L. Hall:
Uncovering a Hybrid Rhetoric of Protest

Cultural hybridity is most prevalently revealed in cultures where racism starkly exists (Homi H. Bhabha, 1990). The Jim Crow culture of the South during the Civil Rights Movement was one such culture. To Bhabha, a hybridized racial identity emerges when two polarized cultures are thrown together. I alter his perspective by arguing that a hybridized rhetoric of protest emerged in the South before and during the Civil Rights Movement, as evinced by the freedom faith expressions of activist, womanist, professor, lecturer, and preacher Prathia L. Hall (1940 – 2002). Hall, an unsung heroine of the Movement, was a leader with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in Georgia and Mississippi from 1962 – 1965. She first coined the phrase, freedom faith, in 1997, but described it as early as 1965 after witnessing the courage and resilience of local Black residents and their supporters in the Deep South in their fight against racial oppression and segregation. Because they were able to combine their deeply-rooted desire for freedom with their Christian faith, these activists willingly risked their lives and livelihoods time and time again during Hall’s sojourn with them. The exigent nature of the situation (Lloyd F. Bitzer, 1968) in which Blacks were forced to exist was the impetus behind Hall’s and other speakers’ freedom faith responses. By analyzing the exigency, audience, and constraints of the situation and Hall’s and others’ responses to them, I advance my argument for freedom faith rhetoric as an oral or written response to urgent situations that illustrate the hybridization of African Americans deeply-rooted Christian faith with their desire for freedom through actions that place their lives and/or livelihoods at risk before and during the Civil Rights Era.

Mittie K. Carey
University of Memphis 

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